What mysteries unfurl when you go shred?
It is impossible, I think, to preserve a neutral attitude towards the Vulnerable Adult Learner surfer. You either hate and burn intolerance or you are one.
Earlier, a BeachGrit reader forwarded a story about a pop-journalist VAL in Costa Rica who writes of his profound experiences with surfing. The story appears on the Tina Brown-created news site The Daily Beast, an odd place that was once howled down by the Taliban for its inaccuracies.
Todd Plummer is an ordinary man, a “built-for-comfort-not-for-speed travel writer from Boston.” He has, in the course of his reporting, been “heli-skiing, walking with wolves, biking across the Scottish Highlands, falconry, and ice-climbing.”
Surfing in Costa Rica was his next challenge, which as the title of his story suggests, delivers multiple enlightenments.
I soon learned that my favorite part of the experience was sitting in the lineup of surfers waiting to catch waves. If nothing else came from that lesson with Matos, I learned how to properly sit up on my longboard in the water. Of course there were a few flips and falls, times when I would accidentally gyrate my way off the board and fall into the water with legs akimbo, but the most gratifying part of the day was socializing with the other surfers and learning their stories. There was a retired fashion executive from New York who moved to the area so he could surf every day.
Towards the end of my lesson, as if out of my dreams, a total hunk paddled by—the quintessential surfer dude, with tousled hair and washboard abs. Without even so much as saying hello, he gave me some advice.
“Dude, I’ve been watching you. Everything you’re thinking, you gotta leave it on the shore,” he said. “It’s all mental, it’s all in your head.”
I still do not know much about surfing, but this I know for sure: it can’t be told, it must be felt. The confidence and balance it takes to surf is not a one-two-three-step instruction, but comes from within. It’s about learning to feel the waves and to find your center on the board. Passing judgment on yourself is not going to make you a better surfer—leaving your insecurities on the shore is.
And, of course, because a story like this without a pithy ending is like a massage without your paper underpants being yanked down and your eyeballs rolling back in your head like marbles,
When I got back from Costa Rica and excitedly texted a travel writer friend who surfs that I recently “learned how to surf,” she corrected me.
“Todd, you are still learning. A true surfer knows he never has fully learned.”
Question: what has surfing taught you?
To love yourself?
That life ain’t fair?
That the meek will be eaten alive?
That there isn’t a better way to distribute precious resources than through a meritocracy?